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England RFU chief executive no longer sings 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot'

Stephen Doyle
Stephen Doyle

18:34 23 Jun 2020

The chief executive of the Rugby Football Union, Bill Sweeney, says that he no longer sings 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot' at England matches.

The song is an old African-Amercian spiritual dating back to the 1800s that was sung by black slaves in America and while it has been credited to Wallace Willis , a freed slave from 19th century Oklahoma, the writing credit has not been totally verified.

The rise of the Black Lives Matter movement in recent weeks has seen the RFU take the decision to review the historical context of the song which has been sung by England rugby supporters for decades.

"I used to sing it a lot in the 70s, I won't sing it anymore," said Sweeney on BBC Radio 5 Live's Rugby Union Weekly podcast.

"I personally would choose not to sing it. If there was somebody next to me singing it then I wouldn't look at them and think they were racist.

"I would think they don't feel it's an issue. You need a bit of common sense and a bit of responsibility here."

After the RFU announced the review last week, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed his view that England supporters should not be banned from singing 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot'.

Sweeney admits that it would be difficult to prohibit the singing of the song at Twickenham Stadium.

"The way to go about it is education and awareness. It's very difficult to ban a song when you've got 82,000 people in a stadium and you say you're not allowed to sing this song," said Sweeney.

"If anything we think that might make it even more divisive because you'll get really strong points of view either side.

"So we think the way to go is education, awareness, understanding the origins of the song and you make a choice whether you think it's appropriate to sing it or not."

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